Hello. My name is Teymoor Nabili, and I like to talk to people.
In 28 years as a TV news anchor and correspondent I have spoken to a vast and diverse collection of people: from debris-caked responders of 9/11 to the immaculately coiffed David Beckham; from peacemaker Kofi Annan to the Khmer Rouge’s cold-eyed “Brother Number 2”; from Singapore’s Prime Minister to street kids in Jakarta, digging for anything of value in the fetid dumps of the city.
But after half a lifetime chasing after people and events, I began to question the value of my work. Did confronting slippery politicians with pointed questions actually change their opinion? Or their policies? Was my reporting on breaking news helping viewers?
I remember standing in Sendai after the Japan tsunami taking a photo of a bent old woman carrying her belongings through the atomised landscape, and suddenly realising that I was more concerned about the composition of my photograph than about the devastation she had just suffered.
I recognised then that my constant rushing around the world, physically and via the airwaves, was not only failing to make a meaningful difference to viewers, it was preventing me from making personal progress.
“People can’t see themselves in rushing water”, a wise man once said.
The Signal project is an attempt to find some still water, reflecting more meaningful images of myself and of the world.
So why should any of this matter to anyone else? Well, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the future of the planet depends upon us taking a new approach.
Asia, my adopted home, is the world’s most dynamic region, its fastest growing economic bloc; the population has quadrupled in the past century, and by 2030 two-thirds of the global middle classes will be living within some 2000 miles of Bangkok.
These simple facts are extraordinarily portentous. Mankind is already breaching vital planetary boundaries, so what will be the consequences if developing Asia adopts the same pattern of consumption, waste and pollution as developed countries?
These questions are slowly climbing up the public and media agendas, but leaders in politics and business remain stubbornly blind to the reality.
It’s past time to engage with these important issues in a systematic and organised way. By looking forward for solutions, not backwards at mistakes; by moving away from the critical, removed news models towards visionary and solutions-based action; by asking not “What happened” and “Why?” but rather “What can we achieve?’ and “How?”
How will blockchain transform the world? How can cities be “smart”? How can citizens, governments, companies, academia and NGOs collaborate to make sure that tomorrow’s Asia is the best place in the world to live?
I have been working with the Asian Development Bank to put these ideas into action, and our first step has been to lay the groundwork for a new content and collaboration platform, Tech For Impact.
I welcome other journalists, activists and change-makers to join me in this project, and contribute interviews, stories and inspiration from around the region.
There’s an improbably exhilarating future awaiting us, if we will just dare to reach for it.